The Steelform Wanganui Heartland coaches have gone into the roller decks to bring back a couple of old friends to reintroduce some bite into the backline for the 2014 campaign.

And a couple more are likely to be joining them as there are still two open slots and only one first-five currently named.

Having their final check of team lists during Wanganui club finals day at Spriggens Park on Saturday, coach Jason Caskey and his deputies Guy Lennox and Jason Hamlin have settled on a 30-man extended squad to prepare for the first pre-season match with King Country up in Turangi this Saturday.

A final Heartland squad of 26 will be announced after that game.


Among the 14 backs named are the returning Aucklander Rhema Sagote and Manawatu's Tevita Taufui as loan players.

Sagote was a 22-year-old Auckland University midfielder in 2012 when he was first tapped by Caskey and Jason Hamlin to join the Wanganui squad.

Taufui, a former Manawatu representative at ITM Cup level 4-5 years ago, was a key component of the 2011 Meads Cup winning campaign.

The press release on the WRFU website said the union was awaiting two further names following confirmation of availability.

It is a strong prospect one of these will be a first-five, joining Ruapehu's Zyon Hekenui.

A number of familiar names who were not part of Wanganui's disappointing 2013 campaign have also returned.

Kaierau's Darren Munro is back in the loose forwards, while Border's Cole Baldwin joins Ruapehu's Roman Tutauha as the preferred hookers.

The costly injuries to locks Nick Cranston and Simon Hillis sees Border's John Laurie back on board, along with Marton's Meni Faasau, to join regulars Sam Madams (Border) and Sonny Woodmass (Ruapehu).


It is a new-look group of props as Pirates captain Lasa Ulukuta will be moved to the front row, while Border's Kamipeli Latu and Marist's Viki Tofa are elevated from last year's development squad to join cast-iron veteran Shaun McDonough.

Both McDonough and clubmate Andrew Evans were not part of the initial 56-man squad that began preparations in June.

Having left Fiji to join Utiku Old Boys in April, Malakai Volau and Samu Kubunavanua are included.

As expected, co-MVP winners Lindsay Horrocks (Border) and William Short (Ruapehu) are the halfbacks, while joining them from the Hunterville senior champions is Nick Tipling, who got a good look-in during the Town versus Country trial in July.

Young wingers Simon Dibben (Marist), Jaye Flaws (Taihape) and top premier tryscorer Clive Stowers (Pirates) all get their opportunity, while Taihape fullback Dane Whale is also included. The team will have their first training run tomorrow at Cooks Gardens, before going into camp in Ohakune on Friday.

They will play King Country at the Turangi Domain at 2pm on Saturday.